I made it to two weeks! Huzzah! How do you like me so far?
Tonight’s story brought to you via the TV Tropes Story Generator. See if you can guess which ones.
Lael Winterberg liked to hit the gym in the early afternoon. She avoided the lunch rush and the post-work rush. Things were nice and quiet. Not too many people around, plenty of machines available. Treadmill, stairclimber, bicycles, weights, you name it.
The gym wasn’t huge but it was very convenient; just a few blocks from her apartment. She had few excuses not to go, and she wanted to get her money’s worth if she was paying for it.
A little brick building that used to be real estate offices or something, across the street from one of the neighborhood’s ubiquitous antique stores. She arrived, already mostly dressed for the workout, carrying a bag with a towel and her running shoes, and pulled the door.
Which was locked, strangely. Was something wrong? The lights were on inside but Lael couldn’t see anyone inside.
She found her gym keycard in the bottom of the bag and swiped it on the sensor; a click from the door told her it worked. She went inside. No one behind the reception desk but that wasn’t unusual. This place was nearly automated, but there was usually someone around for questions or assistance or even cleaning up.
No one in the workout area, no one in the yoga room. No one in the women’s locker room. She was half-tempted to knock on the door of the men’s locker room just for that sense of completion, but… “Now you’re just being silly. And apparently talking to yourself.”
She got out of her hoody and put on her running shoes, stashing the unused clothes in the bag, grabbed a towel and went up to the treadmill. A few quick button presses and she started off at a nice easy pace. But she couldn’t get a rhythm going; she kept looking around, expecting someone to jump out at her or at least startle her.
Aha! Music! She paused the treadmill and put in her earbuds, slipped her phone into the armband and put it on, got some good fast pop songs going, then started again, easy pace, one two one two one two one two.
And jumped when, in the pause between songs, she thought she’d heard someone else’s voice say “Keep going.” She stumbled but managed to keep upright, not falling down and being flung off the treadmill. Since the machine faced the plate glass window, she could use it as a mirror now that the clouds were rolling in outside and it got a bit darker outside than in.
There was no one with her in that room that she could see.
She pushed the treadmill speed up.
Clearly she needed a distraction. Wear herself out. Outrun her stress and concerns.
She caught a rhythm now that she was pushing harder. One song blended into the next and her arms and legs and heart and lungs all worked together. She felt… human. A human animal, a biological machine tuned for exactly this. Biomechanically, tall or short, thin or wide, nearly all humans were the end result of hundreds of thousands of years of refinement of precisely these sets of motions. Bred to run, at least until the last couple thousand years or so. Something derailed your species, you became distracted from your goal, learning about agriculture and staying in one place too long, getting fat on grains instead of tracking down roots and preying on game.
What the…? YOUR species? Lael wondered where that had come from. Shaking her head to clear it, she ran.
As she did, it became meditative. She imagined running on the beach, on the hard packed sand right along where the waves came in, feet digging in and sliding just a bit, causing her calves and thighs to work just that much harder, but more satisfying for it.
She imagined running along a dirt road in the country, trees and fields and rusty barbed wire fences and lazy stinky cows and old barns. But no cars or trucks, no other people, no farmers or pedestrians, no one but her.
She imagined running along a trail up in the hills, lungs heaving and legs and feet straining but still she runs, up and over tree roots and under branches and along streams, solitary but not lonely. Run, Lael, run.
She imagined running in crunchy snow, the flakes melting instantly on her warm face, her breath visible in the chill but her movement making more than enough warmth to keep her going. Keep her running.
And as she imagined it, she kept running.
She may never stop. It’s important she doesn’t stop.